Walmart will be using four of its stores as test centers to develop new innovations and prototype new technology and digital tools.
John Crecelius, Walmart U.S.’s senior vice president of associate product and next generation stores, wrote in a corporate blog post that the test centers will help the company expand its online and in-store capabilities. Using the test centers, Walmart aims to have stores function both as in-person shopping locations and online fulfillment centers.
“We’re moving quickly to use our physical retail stores to not only serve in-store shoppers, but to flex to meet the needs of online shoppers, too, in ways that only Walmart can. That’s where our new test stores come in. Their purpose is to find solutions that help our stores operate as both physical shopping destinations and online fulfillment centers in a way that has yet to be seen across the retail industry,” he said.
According to KNWA, two of the innovation test centers are located in Northwest Arkansas. KNWA identified the stores as the Bentonville Neighborhood Market located at 1703 E. Central Ave. and the Springdale Supercenter located at 4870 Elm Springs Road. The other two stores were not identified.
The Northwest Arkansas test centers are operational, while the other two are yet to come.
The retailer will be embedding product and technology teams within the innovation stores to develop and test solutions in real time. Some of the concepts that the teams will be experimenting with will include omni-assortment, inventory speed, first-time pick rate, and checkout experience.
For omni-assortment, Walmart will be working to make eligible items that are in-store available for customers both in-store and online.
With inventory speed, Walmart has already developed an app to speed up the process of moving items from the backroom to the sales floor; with this app, Walmart associates hold up a handheld device and scan boxes with the app, which uses augmented reality, to highlight boxes that are ready to go. This is designed to get products on the sales floor shelves faster.
Walmart is also working to develop a “new experimental checkout experience” that focuses on creating a relational experience for customers. Teams will be testing different hardware and software options to enhance contact-free checkout experiences.